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Will a Defiant Rep. Akin Burn the GOP’s Campaign Hopes?

Republicans piled on the Senate candidate to drop out of a critical race as the congressman under fire for rape comments dug in his heels.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

August 20, 2012 - 2:04 pm
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Republican Party sources told PJM that Akin has a plan in place to drop out, but whether or not he will actually do so is up in the air.

All in all, the “legitimate” storm seemed to stoke painful memories within the party of the “macaca” moment, when a racial epithet cost Republicans what should have been an easy re-election for Sen. George Allen in Virginia. (Allen is running again this year in a tight race against former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, but has so far remained gaffe-free.)

Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.) has been mum on the matter.

Not that Akin doesn’t have a few supporters.

“I don’t know anything about the science or the legal implications of his statement. I do know politics, and I know gotcha politics when I see it,” said Family Research Council Action PAC president Connie Mackey, adding “we support him fully and completely.”

Still, the NRSC reportedly pulled funding for Akin’s campaign, an aide told the Washington Post, and Politico reported that American Crossroads and its affiliated nonprofit Crossroads GPS canceled an ad buy on behalf of Akin. A few days before the interview aired, the NRSC touted Akin’s run as one of four key Senate races, lauding him for “running strong after a competitive primary victory.”

Even money from Akin’s Takin Back America PAC proved too hot to handle, as Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), who’s running against Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) for his seat, announced he’d be giving a $5,000 contribution from the PAC to a teen pregnancy center in Helena.

Despite the GOP quickly turning its back on Akin, Democrats gave no indication that they’ll let the matter go regardless of whether Akin stays or goes — especially as they look forward to reigniting the “war on women” meme for next week’s Republican National Convention.

“Rep. Todd Akin’s statement is another manifestation of the total disregard and disrespect of women by Republican leaders,” tweeted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrapped her thoughts into a fundraising email: “We need to help Claire, who’s been a strong progressive voice in the Senate on behalf of women’s rights.”

And Obama said that Akin’s comments underscored “why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.”

“So although these particular comments have led Gov. Romney and other Republicans to distance themselves, I think the underlying notion that we should be making decisions on behalf of women for their health care decisions, or qualifying forceable rape versus non-forceable rape, I think those are broader issues, and that is a significant difference in approach between me and the other party,” the president continued.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spearheaded what they said was one of their fastest-growing petitions — not to remove Akin from the ballot, but to pull him off the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

The DNC tied Akin’s comments to the GOP presidential ticket in a fundraising pitch: “Mitt Romney would ‘get rid of’ federal funding for Planned Parenthood, Paul Ryan co-sponsored a piece of legislation that would have narrowed the definition of rape, and now Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri claims there’s a biological defense against pregnancy from ‘legitimate rape.’”

“It’s time for us to move forward—not back—on women’s rights. Take a stand for women,” tweeted chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

And his opponent tried to hold on to Akin’s spot on the ballot. “I think for Washington party insiders to come in and try to invalidate the votes of Missourians would be radical,” McCaskill said in a phone interview with The Huffington Post. “I think that would be a very radical thing to have happen, and I can’t imagine how the Republican primary voters would think about that in Missouri.”

Akin was coming under fire not only for the rape comments, but for saying Friday that he thinks it’s time for a second look at federal “civil rights and voting rights” laws. His campaign responded with a statement that “Akin has, and always will, support the right to vote.”

The question is how much lasting damage Republicans will see from the Akin scandal. In the respect of turning the conversation from the economy back to the war on women, damage to the GOP has been done.

The defiant and determined congressman could even sully the GOP’s hopes for the White House should Democrats turn out in droves to the polls in Missouri and wipe away Romney’s slight polling advantage in the swing state.

Akin’s race is pegged as one of nine toss-ups in the Senate battleground in which Republicans need to add four seats to their current membership to take control of the upper chamber.

Forty-two of the GOP seats are safe or not up for re-election, one is likely GOP, and one leans GOP, which means Republicans have to win seven of the toss-up races, according to the latest scoring of the races at Real Clear Politics. With 47 seats safe, not up, likely, or leaning Dem, Harry Reid’s party needs just four of those toss-ups.

Asked by Huckabee if he’d be a dead weight on the GOP considering his nuclear error, Akin responded, “Nobody wants to own your mistake and I don’t think anybody should.”

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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